When we have to undertake a project, we invest a great deal of effort and time into ensuring the project will be successful. Projects are initiated, then planned out, then executed and monitored. And once they are completed, they are evaluated.
If we can do this for projects at work, then surely the ‘project’ of Ramaḍān is far greater. As people seeking the pleasure of Allah and Paradise, Ramaḍān is the ‘dream project’ that has landed effortlessly on our desks.
In order to prepare a plan which will help us to successfully complete this project, we have to be clear about its goals. These goals will provide the framework of a successful Ramaḍān. Everything we do in Ramaḍān should lead to the following goals:
The Goals of Ramadan
1. Increase and strengthen your īmān
Ramaḍān is the perfect opportunity to rejuvenate our īmān and accelerate our journey to Allah. We should strive to increase our īmān in Allah by increasing in our maʿrifah (knowledge) of Him, love for Him, fear of Him, hope in Him, trust in Him and sincerity to Him. Our īmān in Allah’s Angels, Prophets, Books, the Last Day and al-Qadr should also increase.
2. Embody servitude (ʿubūdiyyah) and submission
Ramaḍān is the training ground to develop ʿubūdiyyah: where we becomes true servants of Allah through our constant humility and awe of him, and always expressing our dire need of Him. We can speed up our journey to Allah by infusing all our physical acts of worship with the quality of ʿūbūdiyyah. In our everyday lives, we are accustomed to giving in to our desires. If we feel like eating, we eat. If we feel like drinking, we drink. Through Ramaḍān, we should aim to train the nafs (inner self) to submit itself to Allah, and to comply with His commands.
3. Taste the sweetness of worship
The goal of Ramaḍān should not be to just perform x number of good deeds. Every act of worship in Islam consists of both an outer manifestation (‘action of the limb’) and an inner reality (‘action of the heart’), which is its essence and core. We should aim to focus on these inner dimensions, through which we will taste the sweetness of worship inshāAllah.
4. Purify your heart
One of the aims of Ramaḍān is to elevate the soul to its intended station: the tranquil soul. Ramaḍān is the perfect time to purify the heart from diseases such as envy, hatred, pride, anger, hypocrisy, hard-heartedness. When the heart is purified, it is less susceptible to the whispers of shayṭān, and more able to defend itself from doubts (shubuhāt) and desires (shahawāt).
5. Develop good character
Excellent character is an integral part of our dīn, and there is no better time to cultivate this than in Ramaḍān. Our beloved Prophet ﷺ said, “When one of you enters the morning in the state of fasting, he should neither use obscene language nor act ignorantly. If anyone insults him or argues with him, he should say: ‘I am fasting, I am fasting’” (Muslim). Ramaḍān is the perfect time to become the best of Allah’s servants: those who bring the most benefit to others, those who treat their parents, spouses, children, families and wider communities with kindness and excellence.
6. Become attached to the Qur’ān and the night prayer
Whilst the primary purpose of fasting is to gain taqwā, the purpose of Ramaḍān is to connect with the Qur’ān. Ramaḍān is the month of the Qur’ān. The Qur’ān is guidance, which is supposed to mould our lives. It is not merely to be beautifully recited. The recitation of the Qur’ān is supposed to increase our īmān and deepen the love and awe of Allah in our hearts. This will only occur if we recite with deliberation and reflection.
Qiyām at night is one of the greatest acts of worship a servant can perform. It brings with it a sweetness which is nearly impossible to experience otherwise. By the time Ramaḍān ends, we should aim for the night prayer to become a habit so that we can make it part of our everyday lives throughout the year.
7. Bring your heart to your ṣalāh, dhikr & duʿā’
Ramaḍān is the perfect time to develop and train ourselves to perform ṣalāh, dhikr and duʿā’ with excellence. We should set specific goals in relation to how we are going to improve in each one e.g. increase khushūʿ, recite the evening adhkār with deep reflection, duʿā’ for a longer duration, and so on.
8. Develop consistency
Ramaḍān is a bootcamp for cultivating our hearts, souls, morals and ultimately our lives, so that the obedience of Allah becomes our lifestyle. We should worship Allah in Ramaḍān with the mindset that our efforts are not limited to Ramaḍān; rather we want to transform our lives through it and make it a consistent part of our lives.
9. Attain Allah’s forgiveness, freedom from Hell-fire & entry into Paradise
There are endless opportunities to be forgiven in Ramaḍān, gain freedom from Hell-fire and be admitted into Paradise. We should be determined to not miss out on any of these opportunities.
10. Tame your nafs to stay away from sins and attain taqwā
One of the key goals of Ramaḍān is to tame the nafs and stop sinning. By refusing your nafs what it desires (food, drink, sleep), you develop self-control. This greater level of self-control should help you the next time you are tempted to sin.
Ramaḍān is the time to elevate the soul from its base desires (stomach and private parts). Aim for your fasting and Ramaḍān to remove the love of the world from your heart; and let your soul soar high above the ground, away from the body, and upwards towards its Creator and Originator.
A large number of goals can feel overwhelming. However, once you have understood the overall goals, do a self-analysis as to where you currently are and what you would like to focus on. Everyone is on their own unique journey. Perhaps you already perform the 5 daily prayers punctually, but your target is to build up a daily habit of ṣalāh al-ḍuḥā. Or perhaps you don’t struggle with envy, but you do struggle with anger, so you can focus on managing your anger this Ramaḍān.
Ramadan: The Battle Against the Nafs
Think of Ramaḍān as a battlefield. The enemy you are trying to defeat is your nafs. It is an enemy which has conquered you many times over in the past. This Ramaḍān, however, you are determined that by the help of Allah, you are going to conquer it. You are going to be the winner, and not the loser. This will require planning, effort, tonnes of duʿā’ and perhaps even a change in strategy.
One such strategy is to manoeuvre around your nafs, and subtly trick it. When you are struggling to keep momentum, say to yourself: just a little while longer. After Ramaḍān, you can go back to enjoying the ḥalāl pleasures. For now, just keep going for a little while longer. Once, Bishr al-Ḥāfī (raḥimahullāh) was walking with one of his companions towards a city. His companion wanted to drink water from a well. Bishr said to him, “We will drink from the next well that appears on the way.” Every time they would approach a well, Bishr would say, “From the next well.” When they finally reached their destination, Bishr said, “This is how we journey through the world.”
“The (pious predecessors) used to make duʿā’ for six months prior to Ramaḍān, asking Allāh to allow them to witness Ramaḍān.” (Laṭā’if al-Maʿārif)
We ask Allah al-Ḥayy (The Ever-Living), al-Qayyūm (The All-Sustainer) to make this Ramaḍān our best Ramaḍān, and we ask Him to not entrust us to ourselves for even the blink of an eye.